We’re now in film-geek awards season. Paul has started going through the awards categories in the Muriels (next year, I fearlessly predict a knockdown drag-out in the 50th anniversary category — NORTH BY NORTHWEST vs. SOME LIKE IT HOT). And in the Skandies poll in which I vote, and which I went to considerable time and expense to see a single eligible film right at deadline, Mike already has reached #12 in the daily countdown.
In deference to Mike’s oft-expressed wishes, I will not reveal my ballot until after the end of the countdown, when it becomes public anyway.
But this is what got left on the cutting-room floor — i.e., the performances, scenes, etc. that I short-listed as I put the ballot together and went over my “film seen” list, but got shucked away as I whittled the list in each category down to 10. So these are all thing I *did not* vote for, but was of a mind to at one point. The asterisks indicate the entry was the last one to get eliminated — the #11, as it were.
Jeff Goldblum, ADAM RESURRECTED — Can’t quite overcome the basic wtf quality of the movie, but does a damn good job trying.
Jason Statham, THE BANK JOB — Has the charisma and physical presence needed to be a major action star that you can bear to see act (cf, the Rock).
** Steve Carell, GET SMART — Actually gave us a Maxwell Smart who was both funny and not a Don Adams clone.
Jean-Claude Van Damme, JCVD — Nobody else could play this role half as well, and not simply “by definition.”
Muthana Mohmed, OPERATION FILMMAKER — Forget that this is a documentary; he is playing a role, a self-conscious “selling of himself (or a narrative of his travails)” at every moment.
Sam Rockwell, SNOW ANGELS — James Reston in F/N was a strident one-note rant compared to this … ahem … strugglingly-religious struggling-drunk.
Will Poulter, SON OF RAMBOW — The Bad Boy has all the fun in goody-good-good movies, and gives it all back to us.
Francois Cluzet, TELL NO ONE — Cluzet would have been an ideal Hitchcock leading man — closest to Jon Fitch in FRENZY.
Mark Ruffalo, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU — Why did the studio dump this perfectly accessible crime movie, which Ruffalo makes deeper and more-original than it looks (which admittedly isn’t per-se saying much)?
LEAD FEMALE (weakest category)
Katherine Heigl, 27 DRESSES — I don’t think I’m thinking with the wrong organ when I say that I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Meryl Streep, DOUBT — If you’d toned it down a bit, Meryl, I’d have joined everybody else’s hosannahs.
** Kierston Wareing, IT’S A FREE WORLD — Where does Loach find all these terrifically natural actors, and why does he surround them with Laverty’s horrifically contrived scripts?
Kate Beckinsale, SNOW ANGELS — Stuck in my memory, though I honestly can’t remember why beyond being surprised she could pull off middle-aged unhappiness at all.
Daniel Mays, THE BANK JOB — Scene-stealing character actors like Mays are what pushes the competent heist-action movie into at least “pretty good.”
Peter Mullan, BOY A — Not an inauthentic cell in his body, though somewhat limited by the schematic role the script gave him.
Aaron Eckhart, THE DARK KNIGHT — Ho hum … Eckhart awesome again. Though I thought he was better (careful wording) early on, where he could use his endless supply of oleaginous charm.
** Brendan Gleeson, IN BRUGES — The very opposite of Eckhart in every way, but also provided exactly what *his* movie needed — gravitas.
Raymond Mearns, IT’S A FREE WORLD — Just a couple of scenes, but an unforgettable Glaswegian “character.”
David Straithairn, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS — The most “tang” in any character in Wong’s overripe hymn to fruity melon-collie (sorry …)
James Franco, (speaking of which) PINEAPPLE EXPRESS — I really believe that this dealer would be a man’s best friend.
Quentin Tarantino, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO — A horrifically bad actor, but Miike knows how to harness a bad-actor — use him as a kind of self-parodying presence for comedy.
Tom Cruise, TROPIC THUNDER — A horrifically bad actor, but Stiller knows how to harness a bad-actor — use him as a kind of self-parodying presence for comedy.
Tom Wilkinson, VALKYRIE — More Wilkinson’s persona and presence than the role, really, but this movie needed some of both.
Richard Dreyfuss, W. — Easily the “best” performance in the film, but Stone is so all-over-the-map with his actors that I decided that I can’t even really be sure that this is a “good” performance in the film’s context.
Emma Thompson, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED — Liked this performance less after seeing Claire Bloom in the 11-hour TV series, but Emma simply doesn’t know how to not make you watch her.
Frances McDormand, BURN AFTER READING — Of course she’s overacting, Mike. In this movie, that’s a problem?
Tilda Swinton, BURN AFTER READING — But *here* was someone I was astonished to see could comically overact as effectively as McDormand.
Catinca Untaru, THE FALL — Movie’s very hazy in the memory (I saw it when the GOP controlled Congress), but her naivete and willfulness have stuck with me.
Anne Hathaway, GET SMART — I don’t suppose it’ll count as giving away my ballot if I say that the “I’ve got her taken care of elsewhere”-factor hurt Hathaway’s chances here.
** Karina Fernandez, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — I don’t suppose it’ll count as giving away my ballot if I say that the “I’ve got that movie taken care of elsewhere”-factor hurt Fernandez’s chances.
Joan Cusack, KIT KITTREDGE — I don’t know if there’s right now an actress who’s better at playing “dotty.”
Debra Winger, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — Wished she had more scenes, though I understand why dramatically-speaking, her character couldn’t be around too much.
Samantha Morton, SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK — The only thing I can really say is that I remembered her at all in this meta-mess that pretty much ends my interest in Kaufman.
Marie-Josee Croze, TELL NO ONE — Can’t say why I liked her without giving away too much, so I’ll just say that she has one of the best acting-faces this side of Liv Ullman (I’ve never seen her and not at least short-listed her).
Penelope Cruz, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA — Never quite shook the notion that she’s overdoing the “Latin firecracker” bit, but she was such an entertaining firecracker that it hardly matters.
Rebecca Miller, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA — Never quite shook the notion that she’s overdoing the “repressed stick-in-the-mud” bit, but she was such an effective stick that it hardly matters.
Ko Hyeon-geong, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — Hard to believe that “the Jennifer Aniston of South Korea” (Theo’s phrase) could be the subtlest actor in the film.
J. Michael Straczynski, CHANGELING — Actually made a wtf real-life story halfway, not exactly credible, but entertainingly in-credible. Pity about the direction though.
Emmanuel Bourdieu and Arnaud Desplechin, A CHRISTMAS TALE — Has that let’s-take-everything-in ambition, but the resultant meandering quality somehow avoids coming across as wheel-spinning.
Mike Leigh, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — Ho hum … loaves, fishes … you know the drill from the world’s greatest writer-who-didn’t-make-a-film-called-MEMENTO. But mikebud … kill the insane dude … seriously.
Peter Morgan, THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL — Actually made a wtf real-life story halfway, not exactly credible, but entertainingly in-credible. Pity about the direction though. And your damn F/N script from later in the year.
Eric Rohmer, ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON — Has an innocence and purity that subsequent reviews made me see, but I still don’t fundamentally get why the film was made at all.
** Philippe Lefebvre and Guillaume Canet, TELL NO ONE — Such a strong story that I really regretted shucking away every short-listing I gave the film and wound up giving it no points at all.
Hong Sang-soo, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — So wildly ambitious in its antecedents (8 1/2 and VERTIGO — a director trying to mould a woman into the perfect leading lady for life) yet still fits within the same Hong patterns
DIRECTOR (strongest category, I think)
Christopher Nolan, THE DARK KNIGHT — I’ve a feeling I’ll regret this omission more than any other, perhaps not seeing Nolan’s direction because blinded by his being simply the best scriptwriter in the world (um … spoiler I guess).
Jacques Rivette, THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS — Except maybe for this one, only the second Rivette to really send me. He should make more movies about nuns in my opinion.
** Fatih Akin, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN — The script so completely falls apart in Act 3 that it’s a tribute to Akin’s direction that the film still sometimes works (and the memory of the first two acts isn’t tainted too much).
Tarsem, THE FALL — Yeah, yeah, make fun of me all you want, you hipsterdudes cracking about “perfume commercials.” Giganticism never gets held against Fritz Lang.
Michael Haneke, FUNNY GAMES — Yep. Haneke doing what he does best in a language he doesn’t speak well, and it’s still not enough for the Top 10. The film’s repetitiveness, in the context of the guy’s career, also hurt its chances.
Patricia Rozema, KIT KITTREDGE — The biggest surprise of the year for me and the credit goes to Rozema’s restraint and her control of the tricky and unfashionable tone this story needed. Wished I could have found a slot for her.
Wong Kar-wai, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS — Yep. Wong doing what he does best in a language he doesn’t speak well, and it’s still not enough for the Top 10. The film’s repetitiveness, in the context of the guy’s career, also hurt its chances.
Gus Van Sant, PARANOID PARK — Why did I think I would give points to a film I so morally detested? Maybe that question is its own answer.
Stuart Gordon, STUCK — OK … maybe THIS was the year’s biggest surprise (though word of mouth at TIFF 07 was strong), and like Rozema’s film also a great job of maintaining a tricky tone — here between semi-gore and semi-comedy.
Interview with Henry Waxman, BIGGER STRONGER FASTER — The guy is such a self-righteous smarm that I was cheering when Bell made him look a fool.
** Inside the car, BURN AFTER READING — (vjm goes off to cry somewhere at cutting this howlingly-funny scene that sold me on this film fergood)
Che at the UN, CHE — Just about the only spark in the film, and also the only moments that aren’t back-of-the-throat treatment, by secular-liberal lights.
Family history, A CHRISTMAS TALE — As someone who wasn’t a great fan of Desplechin, this early scene’s mixture of whimsy and economical exposition won me over right away.
The roach game, CJ7 — Wished the film hadn’t gotten all serious, as this scene rivaks LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL in the terms of a “make lemonade” game being used as a comic denial-of-misery.
First office confrontation, DOUBT — If Steve McQueen had staged this conversation, in a single static take — or maybe two or three, this could have been the scene of the year, in a walk.
At the convent, THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS — The sudden cutting at the end is as shocking and violent as any onscreen-stabbing.
The Pakistani couple, FROZEN RIVER — Another scene I really regretted having to lose, it’s really the movie’s moral trajectory in miniaturem suspenseful as all hell, and on two different grounds. But Melissa Leo allowed me to make it up.
Hancock vs. France, HANCOCK — C’mon … you know why I love this scene.
Flamenco!, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — Whenever I think Leigh should can his actorly one-scene bits like the homeless guy, along comes a masterful scene like this one to remind me how handsomely his gambles often pay off.
“Bapu Can’t Dance,” JAANE TU YA JAANE NA — Yo, Academy … *here* is AR Rahman at his best (OK … maybe not *very* best, but *way* better).
Opening scene, JCVD — I agree with Mike … wtf were y’all thinking (see the scene there). Even if JCVD’s 4th-wall scene isn’t cringeworthy, this one is WAY more fun.
Stuck in windshield, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS — This was a good year for people getting stuck in windshields in my opinion.
Encounter group, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — (vjm just goes off to cry again … I so hate the confessional mode that being emotionally involved with a group like this blew me away … maybe my self-conscious aversion to bloc voting hurt it)
The Stepford breakfast, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD — I don’t care what y’all say … Kate’s mannered Sirkian recitation and gestures *made* this scene.
Reaching for the cell phone, STUCK — So much drama and suspense turns on (quite literally) the most minute of gestures and the smallest of spaces.
QT and cooking, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO — If you’re unsympatico with the film’s whole concept — deliberately mangled recapitulation of Western tropes as pomo-gesture humor … I couldn’t even begin to make the case for this scene.
Retardation explained, TROPIC THUNDER — (repeat vjm crying drill from above … probably the year’s most memorably quotable scene. And it’s film criticism!! And spot on, too!!!)
Restaurant confrontation, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — In some ways an even more uncomfortable scene than the confrontation in DOUBT above, because the characters are so self-consciously (making a show of being) “explosive.”